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New simulations of a triple-star system in the constellation Orion suggest that a planet might be orbiting three stars, which could drastically increase the amount of the solar systems we believe are out there forming planets! And the winds of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot appear to speeding up, which could tell us more about what’s happening deep beneath the planet’s clouds!

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[♪ INTRO].

When you think of a solar system, you likely imagine a single star surrounded by planets, much like our own. But 1300 light-years away, in the constellation of Orion, scientists have discovered evidence of a possible planet orbiting three stars.

That’s according to a preprint that came out in September in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. And if it really is a planet, that could mean that planets are even more common in the universe than we thought. The authors of the study were observing a system called GW Ori that’s home to three young stars, surrounded by a disk of dust and gas left over from the star formation process.

In the past, that disk has interested astronomers for a few reasons. For one, recent observations from the ALMA radio telescope in Chile showed that the dust is split into three rings, each inclined at a different angle. And the rings are humongous.

The outermost one is actually the widest of its kind ever found. But what really caught researchers’ attention was a wide gap between the inner and middle rings. A gap like that isn’t likely to just happen.

It probably means something interesting is going on…. One team of researchers hypothesized that the gap had to do with the fact that GW Ori’s three stars orbit on different planes. They suggested that the stars’ gravitational pull created enough torque to tear the disk and create the gap.

But researchers from the original team studying this star system hypothesized that the gap was caused by a newborn planet clearing a lane through the dust. And that possibility was intriguing. Because while the material in disks like this often does coalesce to form planets in single and double-star systems, we’ve never seen it happen in a triple-star system.

Astronomers didn’t even know if this was possible, or if all those stars’ gravitational pulls would keep the planets from coming together. So, to figure out which scenario most likely explained the gap, the researchers used computer simulations to model several scenarios. Based on their simulations, it didn’t seem likely that the torque from the stars’ orbit could have torn the disk apart.

So then, they modeled a scenario where there was a giant Jupiter-like planet forming in the disk. And they found that, under certain conditions, a newborn planet or planets could carve a gap in the disk. They concluded that this was the most likely explanation for the gap.

So far, the planet itself hasn’t been seen. But in the near future, direct observations from powerful telescopes could put an end to any doubts. If it turns out that GW Ori does have a planet, that would be pretty exciting.

It would tell us that triple-star systems can form planets. And since a significant number of stars are believed to cluster in systems of three or more… that means there could be a lot more solar systems out there forming planets than we thought. In other swirling-gas news, researchers just reported that the winds of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are speeding up.

The findings were published in August in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The Great Red Spot is a massive high-pressure storm rising above Jupiter’s surface. It’s wide enough to swallow Earth, and it’s been around for at least 150 years.

For most of us, it’s easy to think of it as an unchanging fixture on Jupiter’s surface. But planetary scientists know it’s actually changed a lot overtime. It grows and shrinks and even changes shape.

Still, even those scientists were surprised to observe that the outermost band of the storm has increased in speed. Nobody has ever noticed a change in speed like this before, which is something considering that humans have been watching the Great Red Spot continuously since 1878. But we did not always have the ability to look at it as closely as we can today.

Now, thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers are able to monitor the planet in incredible detail. Since the early 1990s, Hubble has made regular reports on the storms, winds, and clouds on the outer planets of our solar system. And more recently, scientists analyzed some of the data it collected to gain insight into Jupiter’s most famous storm.

They found out that, over the course of the Jupiter year that lasted from 2009 to 2020, typical wind speeds in the storm’s outer ring went from around 90 meters per second to more than 100 meters per second. It’s not a huge change. And at the moment, astronomers don’t exactly know why it happened.

Since Hubble can only see the top of the storm, there is a lot that we still don’t know about it. But it’s worth paying attention to. Because while it’s only a small detail in the grand scheme of things, scientists may be able to use clues like this in the future to piece together what’s happening deep under Jupiter’s clouds.

And eventually, they hope to better understand what fuels this giant, mysterious storm that has fascinated humans for so long. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Space! Did you know that we have our own SciShow Space Patreon?

It’s different from the SciShow Patreon. If you like what SciShow Space does and you wanna help support the channel, check out to learn more. [♪ OUTRO].